An Architecture & Design Tour of Amsterdam, Brugges & Antwerp

Amsterdam, Brugge and Antwerp, three cities that I’d never traveled to, but have always talked about going to with my family, and they did not disappoint. The Leaders of Design Council held our annual design summit in Brugge but the pre-trip started in Amsterdam. We had some spectacular events planned specifically for our group that was the icing on the cake. Travel and design is a match made in heaven for me and anyone who is a lover of design and architecture. My travel advice will be focused on design and architecture, with some interesting cultural trips on the side. You will be able to visit some of the same places we did and be able to take away some helpful tips from this blog.

Amsterdam

Our first day started in the afternoon, we went to lunch and then went on a walking tour to a Historic Home on the canal, Museum Van Loon. The Museum is open to the public and a wonderful way to go into a home on the canal. Museum Van Loon is a magnificent private residence built in 1672 by the architect Adriaen Dortsman. The first resident was the painter, Ferdinand Bol, a pupil of Rembrandt. The interior of the house has remained largely intact during the last centuries and still evokes the splendor of the 17th century. The rooms are grand with original paintings and furniture in many rooms, it is worth the visit. 

The next excursion was to Royal Flora Holland, the largest digital marketplace for floriculture, connecting growers and buyers on the marketplace.  It was incredible watching this massive operation work like clock work (although it reminded me of a disorganized rush hour). We followed up that visit with a walking tour of Keukenhof, also known as the Garden of Europe. It’s one of the world’s largest flower gardens and is open from the end of March to mid May. A colorful feast for the eyes, full of approximately 7 million flower bulbs. It was such an amazing treat to walk through the gardens, there were flowers and plants as far as the eye could see.  We went to Restaurant de Kas for lunch, located in the beautiful Park Frankendael, and is housed in connecting greenhouses from the 1920’s. The restaurant serves light, modern and carefully prepared dishes that are made from sustainably grown vegetables produced either on site or in the chefs’ larger field. 

 

 

We went to the Anne Frank House, which is a must if you’re ever in Amsterdam. It’s such a powerful museum honoring the plight of Anne Frank and her family, and all of the persecuted Jews during World War 2. It’s run by the Anne Frank Foundation, which also advocates the fight against antisemitism and racism and publishes the Dutch annual Monitor Racisme en Extreem-rechts (Racism and Extreme Right Monitor) 

We took a lot of walking tours throughout the city and along the canals. The architecture is so unique and the lifestyle has a very relaxed, casual elegance, where nature is honored and design is held in high regard to support your daily life. We took a tour in the Rijksmuseum to see all the Dutch Masters and I highly recommend a visit.

 

 

One evening we went on a nice canal boat ride and enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on our way to an antique shop. After touring the shop we walked to a nearby hotel and had dinner there. Each event was so special. It was such a lovely introduction to Amsterdam and I can’t wait to bring my family back for another visit!

The antique shop had so many beautiful pieces but I fell in love with these mirrors!

 

The hotel we stayed at is The Conservatorium Hotel with an incredible history. At one point it was a music conservatory and the original architecture and materials are still intact. There’s a large glassed in Atrium where the Lounge, Bar and Restaurant are located. You can enjoy breakfast or a glass of wine. 

 

Here are some other restaurants we went to:

Taiko Cuisine (at the Conservatorium Hotel) really good!

Morgan & Mees

The Dylan Amsterdam

Brasserie van Baerle

Brugges

We went to Brugge to meet up with the rest of the LDC for our yearly summit. The city has a wonderful history to it and within the central city area, cars are restricted which makes it a pedestrian friendly city. The first evening, we had a Welcome dinner at Belfort Tower, we were led to the Tower by a local marching band in traditional costumes. That was an amazing way to kick off the summit!

 

On our first day after our leadership session, we broke out into groups and took a walking tour of the city. Each group dined at different restaurants in the city that night. I went to Brasserie Uilenspiegel with a wonderful group, hosted by Hyde Park Mouldings. The moules (mussels) and frites (fries) were flowing!

 

 

The next day was the pinnacle of the trip, spending the day just outside of Antwerp with Boris Vervoodt and the Vervoodt family at their Unesco landmark home Kasteel van ‘s-Gravenwezel. Purchased in 1984, he began the process of restoring the castle while the family lived in the carriage house. We spent the day touring the grounds and then the interior of the carriage house and castle. We were served an exquisite lunch in the castle where everyone found a place to sit, eat, drink and converse about our beautiful surroundings. We were then transported to Kanaal, a development by the Vervoodts of a distillery that they grew into a residential and office development. Standing firm in their ethos of living within nature and art, several buildings have galleries on the ground floor. 

 

Axel has said “My work is about silence and strength,” and it shows with the artists he represents at his galleries and the furniture they have curated with their design firm. The day ended with an amazing dinner at Kanaal. The day filled me with more inspiration than I know what to do with. I’m still processing what I saw and continue to dig deep into Axel’s work which is as fresh today as when it was first done, honoring the history of a piece by not making it shiny and bright, but keeping the patina and rough finish to show its story.

 

Our final day was spent finishing our break out sessions, and then breaking off into groups to tour hidden Brugges. We visited a plaster maker, whose father owned the business which he bought from a master of the art prior to him keeping the art and business alive through the decades. He let us go up into the attic where there was a treasure trove of old forms dating back to his father and the previous owner. In some of the pieces, you could see the horse hair that was used within the plaster, it was such a treat!  We ended our tours with a fun boat tour and visit to a private shop to learn about chocolate making!

 

 

I fully enjoyed my visit here and know that my experiences have changed me as a designer in the most positive way and will reflect in how I design for my current and future clients.

Hi, I’m Kristen Rivoli. I design premium homes customized to your tastes and needs. I live with my husband, two sons, and dog just outside of Boston.